In a Constitutional Republic of the sort that we thought we had, the process by which laws are made is at least as important as the laws that are enacted. Our Constitution prescribes that law-making process in some detail, but those who voted for the “Budget Control Act of 2011″ (“BCA 2011″) were wholly unconcerned about trampling upon required constitutional processes on the way to the nirvana of “bi-partisan consensus “to avert a supposed crisis. At least two titles of the bill now being rushed through Congress are unconstitutional.
First, the “Debt Ceiling Disapproval Process” in BCA 2011 Title III unconstitutionally upends the legislative process.
The Constitution’s Article I, Section 8, Clause 2 vests in Congress the power “to borrow Money on the credit of the United States.” As two of America’s leading constitutionalists, St. George Tucker and Joseph Story, observed, the power to borrow money is “inseparably connected” with that of “raising a revenue.” Thus, from the founding of the American republic through 1917, Congress — vested with the power “to lay and collect taxes, duties and imposts,” — kept a tight rein on borrowing, and authorized each individual debt issuance separately.
To provide more flexibility to finance the United States involvement in World War I, Congress established an aggregate limit, or ceiling, on the total amount of bonds that could be issued. This gave birth to the congressional practice of setting a limit on all federal debt. While Congress no longer approved each individual debt issuance, it determined the upper limit above which borrowing was not permitted. Thus, on February 12, 2010, Congress set a debt ceiling of $14.294 trillion, which President Obama signed into law.
However, a different approach was used when BCA 2011 was signed into law on August 2, 2011. Title III of the Act reads the “Debt Ceiling Disapproval Process.” Under this title Congress has transferred to the President the power to “determine” that the debt ceiling is too low, and that further borrowing is required to meet existing commitments,” subject only to congressional “disapproval.” For the first time in American history the power to borrow money on the credit of the United States has been disconnected from the power to raise revenue. What St. George Tucker and Joseph Story stated were inseparable powers have now by statute been separated.
Read More at Floyd Reports By Herbert W. Titus and William J. Olson, Floyd Reports